On, The Novel, or You Can Call Me Al

On, The Novel, or You Can Call Me Al

This isn’t a subject I write about often because it’s a convoluted and complicated mess. But, like everyone else around, I have a father.

I didn’t grow up with this man, and in fact only met him for the first time several years ago. Without getting lost in a wash of details, the long-and-short is: he didn’t know I existed; I finally tracked him down and said, Hey, I think you participated in the biological creation of me; but despite life’s Magic 8-ball repeatedly flashing, All signs point to Yes, he is yet to find this an answer he can accept.

When offered the very simple solution of modern science, aka a paternity test, he’s become even more stubbornly resistant. One potential reason for his reserve is that he, like myself, might be afraid of needles (a fact that, were it true, could further substantiate our filial relations). The other, sadly more realistic explanation, is that he has money and is scared shitless that it if were determined I am his son he’ll have to give some of it to me.

In fairness, the thought about the money is a best-guess on my part; he’s never explicitly said that. But then, if it looks like shit and smells like shit, odds are it’s not a rose you’re contemplating. Based on our interactions I believe this is what motivates him, and as a result I’ve formed several conclusions about his character, few of which are positive.

But I realize that I’m the writer here, and in framing the conversation I’m in a unique position of power. As he’s not around to defend himself I won’t bash him, but I will tell the following story. Out of respect for the fact that he probably wouldn’t want his name and identity divulged in association with me, I’ll refer to him by something other than his birth name. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call him Al.

A couple months ago Al and I sat down for coffee. This was only the second time we’d been in one another’s presence. We talked for about 40-minutes; the first 30 were taken up with Al railing on me for my life’s many shortcomings: I don’t have a wife or children; I don’t own a home or a car; I don’t have a six-figure job… You know, just the sort of conversation not-fathers usually have with their not-sons.

He knows I’m trying to be a writer, and he asked me, How come you haven’t written a novel yet? I laughed and said: Well Al, it’s not that easy, but I am working on it. (And dear reader, I assure you that I am, and the stories are coming soon. Very soon.)

This reply apparently didn’t work for him, and he repeated his thought, only this time it had morphed into a challenge rather than a query: How come you haven’t written a novel yet! I explained that writing is a lot of work that takes a lot of time; you don’t just sit down and write a novel over the weekend, or at least not a good one.

Al looked at me and said, and I swear this is true: I could write a novel. I could write a novel this weekend. I could write a novel this weekend and get it published next week.

For tonal reference, if you’ve ever seen the movie The Big Lebowski, think of the scene where John Goodman’s character Walter is explaining to the Dude how he could get him a toe, with nail-polish, by 3 o’clock that afternoon. He’s so blindly and self-righteously assured of his position that all he can do is scoff at any contrary notion, which is a dead ringer for how Al explained his impending literary accomplishments.

I sipped my coffee and looked across the table at him. Several thoughts ran through my mind; most of them involved words my grandmother wouldn’t want to read my having written. Eventually, I thought, You sad cowardly little boy—you really want to have a dick-measuring contest with me on this? (Grandma wouldn’t like that one, but then she doesn’t have a computer so I’m probably safe.)

I laughed to myself and looked down. Any questions I may have had about his character were gone. Finally, I said: Well alright then, Al, go ahead. I look forward to reading your book.

We parted ways soon thereafter and I haven’t spoken with him since. I did recently search his name on Amazon, but apparently his novel hasn’t been published yet, though I’m sure it’s coming soon.

As for my own stories—they do take a lot of time and work, but as I said, they’re on their way.

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